Chobe National Park, Botswana
March 30, 2012
Wake up bright and early for a fun day in Botswana. Chobe National Park is about an hour away from Jolly Boys. I don’t know who is more excited, Emily or I. Liam has a plan for the day that does not include “the wives.” He says he needs to work, but, I think that is code for cold beer, relaxing by a pool, and playing online!
Leaving the husband to fend for himself, Emily and I jump in the van that will take us to Chobe. I’m so excited. Especially, when the driver tells us to watch for rhino as we drive. We passed through another park right on the Zambezi River in Zambia. Well, for the entire time we were in the car, my face was plastered to the window looking for a white rhino. I have animal issues. I could spend the rest of my life stalking them. I 100% understand animal photographers. It’s a game. To get the coolest shot of an animal in their natural habitat. And with each shot, you think of something new and exciting that you “have to have.” Don’t compare shots with people. This will result in jealousy and the need to capture another image on another safari. I guess it’s becoming my addiction. Unfortunately, safaris do not come with a cheap price tag. Can I just live in the bush for a few months and chase animals????
After about 45 minutes, we turn off the main road. This road leads to the Zambezi river. Um. I’m confused. I didn’t know we were going to have to cross a river. But, I should have known this since the falls have to come from somewhere. My own stupidity often amuses me. It takes a lot of practice and hard work to be so ditzy!
We go through customs and have our passports stamped. Jump in a little boat and zip across the river. Someone was talking about crocodile infestation and the need to be careful because hungry crocs may attack boats. I didn’t know whether to believe them or just hope for a new purse and pair of boots with a side of croc taters.
On the other side, we go through immigration in Botswana. Now, at the border of Botswana, there is a shoe washing station. It’s full of black nasty water and who knows what else. But, in order to be polite, I wash my shoes and hop in the jeep. We are off on safari. WOO HOO!
We arrive at the office of the safari company. Try to pay, but of course their credit card machine is down. I was pretty excited to actually use a credit card machine. We have been living on a cash only system for MONTHS. Credit cards are almost a novelty now. Eat breakfast and find out that we are riding through the land portion of the park first and then the river safari after lunch. The office manager tells me it will be okay to pay the fee over lunch as that should give them enough time to fix the problem with the machine. Fingers crossed.
On the way to the park, I hunt the town looking for an ATM. Just in case. Always good to have a back up plan. This is Africa.
I’m impressed with Botswana so far. It’s one of the more developed countries in Africa. The country is relatively safe and the exchange rate is stable. The town we drove through was clean, the roads were tolerable. Botswana has potential.
We arrive at the gate and take an opportunity to run to the restroom. The roads on safari tend to be rather bumpy. Plus, I don’t know about you guys, but I always have this fear that I’m going to squat in the bush and a mamba is going to bite me. I’m sure it’s a silly fear and I’m probably way more likely to be bitten by a killer spider or a stung by a scorpion. But, who said fears were meant to be rational. Not I!
Get back in the car and away we go.
Now, the first animals we spy are warthogs. Now, most people who know me, would swear I would never utter the words below. I don’t know what has come over me. But, I desperately want a warthog hanging on the wall. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to kill it. That’s Liam’s job. And, I will eat the bacon and share with friends and staff. But, I think they are so ugly, they are cute. I will not be able to go back to Alaska without a pig on the wall. It may be the only dead animal allowed in the house because they are so creepy. But, the pig for some reason is okay. Shrug.
After the warthogs, we passed a herd of impalas and then found some storks nesting in the trees. Maribou storks were nesting everywhere. They are rather large birds. I have not gotten close enough yet to confirm this, but, I am pretty sure that their wingspan is longer than I am tall. I’m also questioning the fact that the bird may be taller then me. Yes, I’m that short and shrinking.
We continue a little farther down the road and arrive at the river’s edge. Okay. I’m impressed. The Chobe River is beautiful. We can see Namibia across the river. There are elephants splishing and splashing. Hippos floating and talking. This is really, really cool. Again, I don’t know who is more excited. Emily or I.
Not far from us, there was a gigantic bull bathing himself. A small boat motors a little too closely and the elephant becomes annoyed and walks out of the river. As he continues to walk towards us, I’m impressed by his size. One of the biggest elephants I have seen to date. He is gorgeous! And, heading straight for us. When large bull elephants are approaching, the driver’s always enters a heightened sense of awareness. Bull elephants can be quite ferocious and will attack if they feel the need. But, our little friend was just looking to have a nice stroll without any invading his personal space. He walked right behind the jeep and then along side it. He was walking rather briskly so a lot of the pictures I took are blurry. But, I was able to get a few great shots of the lil’ guy!
We continued along the river’s edge for a while. The truck in front of us was full of the China man. They started making all kinds of noise and ran a massive male kudu away. I was pissed. Why couldn’t they keep their little lips from flapping for five minutes so we too could enjoy the beauty of the giant male kudu. I managed to snap a few pictures as he ran away! But, GRRRRRRR, stupid China man.
Our driver went around them and we were in the lead. Good. Stupid China man. Well, we came across a beautiful water buffalo. I offered to take Emily’s picture with it. However, we had to change seats. I don’t know why I didn’t think to tell her to move slowly and crouch, but she stood up and took a step. Well, the buffalo freaked and ran away, the hippos soaking behind him freaked and all jumped. Our driver freaked and wanted to know what we were doing and we couldn’t stop laughing. Oops. I did feel a little guilty for the heart attacks we handed the water buffalo and hippos. Poor little guys all freaked out. Next time, I guess we should ask them before we try to covertly take their picture.
Continue along the river’s edge and see a female waterbuck, striped mongooses, and a herd of elephants. The river is beautiful. I’m really enjoying the safari along the river’s edge and looking forward to the boat portion of our trip. I just wanted to be chased by a hippo. A slight death wish, maybe. But, it would be GREAT for the story!
Head away from the river and take a pit stop. This would be one of those points that I realize my fear of snakes needs to be overcome. Emily and I STOMP our way through the brush to the lil’ girls room (a large tree had fallen over and we were using the root base as a barrier to the other people near us). We figure any critters that were here are now afraid of our size and power. It worked. We didn’t see anything.
Had a nice cold coke and a snack and away we went. Meandered through the bush and found a giraffe munching on some trees. Then, a rather large group of impalas. Then, all of a sudden, our car is barreling past a female lion laying on the side of the road. Emily and I are trying to talk without screaming because we are in the open seats and have a fairly good chance of being first one attacked. Now, this was not an easy feat. There were lots of hand gestures and STOP! STOP! STOP! as one slurred word interjections. About 50 m after the lioness, the driver realized what we were saying and stopped and backed up. I’m impressed she stayed put. Granted it was really hot. And she was hiding in the canopy of a tree, panting. About 10 feet away, there was a group of cubs playing in the bushes. What a score. Baby lions. They were pretty cute. I just wish we would have had a little better visibility for improved shots. The grass was really tall and they were hiding as they played. I’m thinking Simba & Nala type pouncing practice. Hakuna matata.
After the lions, we pretty much headed out of the park and back to the office. It was time for lunch. I do not know why but safaris make you hungry. It could be the constant core workout as you bump along the “roads.” Lunch was quite a spread and rather delicious. Southern Africa is quickly winning me over. The credit card machine was working and I was able to pay my bill! Thankfully.
After lunch, we waited a little bit to sort through which group of people was going on the boat with us. Walk down the boardwalk to the boat and was disappointed. I wanted to be in a floating death trap. Nope. We were in a gigantic party boat. Note to self, make sure the boat is a floating death trap in the future. Es muy importante.
I told Emily as we got on the boat that I would cry if one of two things did not happen. Either I wanted a hippo to chase us OR I wanted the open mouth hippo shot. Well, I got the shot. The hippos were rather cooperative and according to the captain quite grumpy. We were far enough away to enjoy the show. I felt like we were watching a slow motion version of the game hungry, hungry hippos.
We putzed along the river. Passed a few crocodiles, hippos, and came upon a rather large herd of elephants. There were a few baby elephants in the mix. They were so much fun to watch. They stayed right by their moms and if there was any fear, they hid under their mom’s legs. There was on little guy who was leaving the river and was trying to climb over a log. He was so small, he was sort of stuck halfway over it. I had to giggle as he wiggled off the log. It’s such a pain to be little and have to crawl/wiggle over big obstacles. I get it little guy. And I had been allowed, I totally would have helped you out!
A gigantic male appeared on the bank and was strolling down to the river. He was an interesting fellow to watch. When he arrived at the bank, all of the other elephants walked over to him. He must be the guy in charge. Or his harem was excited to see him. I know the puppies and I run to greet Liam when he comes home. So, I’ll go with the harem and excitement.
Continue on and enjoy the nice calm ride along the river. It was a beautiful day and the weather cooperated considering it was raining everywhere around us!
What a great safari day! I’m glad I was able to go with Emily! It was a neat park and I would love to go back one day!